On Monday, Pleasant Grove Elementary School's Board of Education unanimously voted to reverse a recent grading policy change that had caused teachers to be up in arms.

On Monday, Pleasant Grove Elementary School's Board of Education unanimously voted to reverse a recent grading policy change that had caused teachers to be up in arms.

Tiffany Phillips, Pleasant Grove teacher, said to the board that the school's policy on grades changed in October to a method that was nothing like any nearby schools.

“In October we were informed at a faculty meeting that the board adopted a new grading policy. We could give no grades lower than a 50 percent, even if the student turned in nothing,” she said.

As a 24-year middle school teaching veteran, she said she respectfully disagreed with the policy since she felt it gives a false impression to students that they could get something for nothing.

“Our local high schools do not have this policy,” she said.

The next week she said she asked for a copy of the board minutes and the new policy so she could send it home to parents.

“When our superintendent, Scott Roper, handed me the information I was told that it was on a need to know basis,” Phillips said. “I was taken aback since parents should be informed of any changes made that would affect their child's education.”

At the next faculty meeting she said they were again reminded to not give grades lower than a 50 percent.

“We must instill the value of working to attain what you want,” she said.

“I found out that the policy was not board approved in October as we were told. It was approved the following month,” she told board members.

Phillips said, “I feel it should have been brought to the attention of parents and teachers before it was implemented.”

She said she believes many parents are still unaware of the policy.

Phillips said she sent an e-mail to the administration showing how a student who did one out of four assignments could do better than a student who actually did all the work, but did not perform well.

“The Dean of Students, Timmy Young, responded with an email referring to teachers as prison wardens.

No, Mr. Young, I am not a prison warden, as you suggested in your email. And I don't want to hold anyone down. I prefer to give students a hand up, not a hand out.”

She said (Superintendent Scott) Roper suggested during a faculty meeting that she give bonus points to the low-performing students, but nothing was mentioned about the responsible students who do their work and perform well.

“By giving them a 50 for not working, I fear we are giving them a false sense of reality. That is not the way the world works. You normally don't get something for nothing.”

As she addressed the board, she said, “If you are wondering if it affected our students, it did. Yes, more were passing and more were eligible, but we middle school teachers struggle to get the students to work, or even take a test. We heard one too many times, 'just give me a 50.' Due to this policy, our hands were tied, and our students knew it.”

She said she believes students should have to earn grades, not be given grades.

“We have all worked for what we have. It was not given to us. I am hoping our grading policy will go back to how it was previously. If nothing else, it should be revised to say those who do nothing, receive nothing.”

Phillips told the board her students have been aversely affected.

“When one of my students learned of this policy, she said, 'Wow. We really are a ghetto school. Now teachers have to give us a grade.' “

Phillips said hearing her student use those words made her heart sink.

“We are supposed to have high expectations and standards for our students,” she said. “We should also take into consideration in how giving students a grade will affect their performance later in their education. I have yet to find a nearby school who uses this policy.”

Last year, Pleasant Grove school received an academic grade of F from the state, Rosie Smith, Pleasant Grove Physical Education teacher, said.

“The goal should be trying to get it back up to par, where it's supposed to be,” Smith said. “The board has a lot of responsibility in this also. … to be supportive of the teachers, the students, the parents.”

Teacher Kristy Phelps said she's not happy with the grading policy at all.

“I do not believe that a child could just be able to write his or her name and turn it in and get a 50 percent,” she said. “I realize that's still an F, but it's also a percentage. That's basically just a teacher giving them a grade.

I believe that the students should have to try to do their work to get up to that 50 percent.”

Pleasant Grove Board of Education President Jerry Skaggs said, “So, if I sign my paper and turn it in, I get a 50. If someone else busts her butt and gets the same 50, that's a complaint right now. Now I know just signing my paper and turning it in and getting a 50 is going to bump the school GPA up. Is that what we're working on?”

Roper said, “We're working on equal grading. Because we're putting the same grade that would make an A –– that's 10 percent of your grade –– then 10 percent of your grade should be an F. That's why it's zero to 59. That's why you count it as a 50.

He said one of the things that could be at issue is how much weight to give a test.

“You don't give daily grades the same weight as a test,” he said. “But you're looking at the equality of the divisions of each letter grade: Where your top 10 percent is an A, and your bottom 10 percent is going to be 59 or lower. But nobody's going to get below a 50. Yes, you can have students that just sign it, and turn it in and get a 50 –– it's still an F –– but when it's averaged in, it shouldn't be the same as if it's a test, because you should weight your test.”

Skaggs said, “My two cents is, if I bust my butt and study and do everything I can and turn in and get an F –– a 50 –– and you sign your name and turn it in an get a 50, if I'm a student, I'm going to get mad, because he has done absolutely nothing to get the same grade that I did killing myself. So, for me, when I was in school, your grade was what you deserved.”

He said since the teachers are against it, the board should challenge the teachers and make them come up with learning programs and make the kids learn.

“Let's give them a year to get the grades up, if it doesn't work, next year we can go back to the 50,” Skaggs said.

Young said, “Based on research –– which is what we should base our decisions on –– research shows that over the years the people who have dropped out of school dropped out because they didn't have any hope of catching up. So, when you get behind in your school work, you have an F, and you're trying to get to a B, how do you get there?

We can't make (teachers) teach, and we can't make the students learn,” he said. “An F is an F. How much punishment do we want to issue a student for having a score lower than a 50? The difference is the scale.”

Board Member Kelly Petty disagreed.

“This is kindergarten through eighth grade. They are not going to flunk out until high school. This is not high school,” she said. “We have children who we need to prepare to go to high school. Allowing our students to slough off teaches them to be slackers. The ones who are struggling we can get them tutoring and whatever help they need to get up to where they need to be. They need to earn it.”

Board Member Eugenia Lena shared a similar stance.

“We are trying to prevent dropouts. That's why we start at kindergarten up through eighth grade,” Lena said. “If you have teachers who want to teach the younger students how to be responsible in their grades and in their lives, that's where it begins.”

The board unanimously voted to reverse the grading change until July 2017, when the issue would be revisited.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.